Malaysia - Malaysian national automaker Proton has launched its new Satria Neo model in South Africa and expects to boost its exports to the African continent.
The Satria Neo hatchback - unveiled in the Malaysian market in June -made its debut at the Auto Africa 2006 exhibition this week and will be distributed by its local partner, Pearl Automotive, Proton said in a statement.
South Africa is the second country after Singapore where the Satria Neo will be exported, said Proton, which has been striving to increase exports to offset shrinking sales at home.
The company said it made its entry into the South African market in 2005 as a largely unknown brand but has carved a niche with its Gen2 saloon car, the small utility truck Arena and its compact model Savvy.
It said the Satria Neo would compete in a market where the automobile industry is the second most important industrial sector after mining in terms of contribution to South Africa's economy.
Proton didn't give details of export volume to South Africa. Company officials could not be reached for details.
Proton's share in Malaysia's domestic passenger car market has shrunk to around one-third amid stiff competition from foreign carmakers as well as local rivals.
Second national carmaker Perodua, part-owned by Japan's Daihatsu Motor has so far outsold Proton in Malaysia for the first time ever this year.
Money-losing Proton, which aims to boost exports via alliances with foreign carmakers, has said it plans to tap large consumer markets in China, India and Southeast Asia to raise exports to 100 000 cars by 2008.
It is exploring a possible cooperation with France's Peugeot-Citroen SA. Proton has said it was also talking to China's Chery Automobile about building and selling each other's cars in China and Southeast Asia. Proton also has a technology alliance with Japanese automaker Mitsubishi.